8th grade ‘future storyteller’ conjures winning tale of two soldiers

Listen
 Actor Bill McIlhenny appears in 18th century wardrobe in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Coke Whitworth, file)

Actor Bill McIlhenny appears in 18th century wardrobe in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Coke Whitworth, file)

Historic Philadelphia’s 10th anniversary summer celebrations include a “Future Storytellers” contest. Among the 13 winners who will perform their stories Saturday at storytelling benches across the city’s historic district is Kathleen Heller.

Historic Philadelphia‘s 10th anniversary summer celebrations include a “Future Storytellers” contest. Among the 13 winners who will perform their stories Saturday at storytelling benches across the city’s historic district is Kathleen Heller (no relation).

The winning entry by the 12-year-old eighth grader from Millstone Township, New Jersey, is a tale of two friends in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

The Revolutionary Everyman

“Mike? MIKE!?” Clay Finnegan yelled.

His lifelong friend, Mike Wesley, was shot in the shoulder moments ago at the Battle of Lexington.

“I’ll be fine” He whispered hoarsely, blood soaking his tattered uniform.

Of the 10 injured soldiers, Mike seemed to be most out of it, not noticing the medical tent’s stench or the pain from his wound. But, despite the nurses’ valiant efforts, Mike eventually succumbed to his injuries.

Although countless people had died in prior protests and battles, the news destroyed Clay. He tried to focus on the war, but couldn’t bring himself to forget Mike.

By breakfast, the British were in nearby Concord, burning military supplies. Clay marched toward the billowing smoke with his comrades.

“I’ll win this for you, Mike.” Clay whispered menacingly, nearing North Bridge.

BLAM! BLAM! The British opened fire! General Davis, the first victim, slumped lifelessly off his horse.

Amid the carnage, Clay locked eyes with one British soldier. He looked… familiar. Suddenly, Clay remembered: This was Mike’s shooter!

Clay quickly shot the man, rage overwhelming his thoughts. With his last breath, the Redcoat lifted his cocked musket… shooting Clay.

Clay hit the ground, then was greeted by Mike’s embrace.

Dave Heller: How did you choose to tell the story through the eyes of these two figures, Clay Finnegan and Mike Wesley? Who were they?

Kathleen Heller: They were two soldiers whose names I made up. I’m not sure if their story ever played out but, who knows?

DH: But it’s based on the Battle of Lexington, and very dramatic, that a soldier’s buddy died and then he had an opportunity to seek revenge. I understand the original version of the story was much longer. Talk about the job of editing it down to size from 600 or 700  words to 200.

KH: Whenever I’m given a short assignment in school, that’s always hard for me to do. Because usually I’m only given two or three pages. But to get out what I want to say takes me more like four pages at least. So having to edit it down from 600 or 700 words down to 200, that was definitely a challenge.

DH: Tell us about Saturday’s event.

KH: I’m going to be reading my story with a professional storyteller on one of the storytelling benches at Independence Mall.

DH: So how about for you, personally — what do you love most about this: the writing of it, or history?

KH: I mostly enjoy the writing. I had to look up the facts, and I am no trivia geek, so the writing was definitely more fun for me.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.